Photos: Community Thrift and Window Art Shop moves under one roof to open flagship store in downtown Eastside
Community Thrift & Vintage’s is making a name for itself among frugal fashionistas for its edited selection of second-hand yarns and affordable prices, but there’s another reason to love the Vancouver-born boutique – it’s run entirely by women.
Run by the Portland Hotel Society, a local nonprofit that advocates for underserved residents of the Downtown Eastside, the retailer and its sister store, the Window Community Art Shop, were founded by women, are run by women and employ women exclusively since their launch in 2011.
The boutique peer programs, in particular, have helped hundreds of recovering and vulnerable DTES women discover their purpose and passion in the neighborhood. All proceeds from the items sold go directly to helping women.
âSometimes with fashion jobs there’s no awareness,â says Elizabeth Krebs, director of Community Thrift. Law by telephone. âSo that was the part that interested me the most. “
“It gives them [the women] a sense of value in the community, âadds Katie Piasta, Director of Window Community Art Shop,â because they engage with people and work and receive an allowance every week.
After nearly five years of operating from separate retail spaces in the DTES and accumulating a loyal following of socially responsible buyers during that time, Community Thrift and the Window Art Shop have come together. recently reunited under one roof at 11 West Hastings Street.
Now known collectively as the Community Window, the spacious 2,500-square-foot flagship features the unisex denim, t-shirts, sportswear and jackets that Krebs arranges at rag yards, as well as a selection expanded art, housewares and accessories from artists and artisans based inside and outside the DTES.
First Nations-inspired artwork and dreamcatchers by Marcel Mousseau line the walls, for example, while handmade soap from Abbey Lane Farm, while locally made ceramics and an assortment of naturally scented candles from Hives for Humanity are filling the shelves.
Carrall Street Canvas Co. clutch bags, tote bags and aprons are featured throughout the boutique, hand-sewn by women from the boutique’s peer program. Led by Piasta, the in-house brand is managed from an 800 square foot sewing studio located towards the back of Community Window. There, the women in the company’s peer program meet almost daily to produce the articles.
âFor the women who sew, it’s so rewarding for them to be in the store doing something and someone saying ‘Oh, that’s such a beautiful apron!’ and they can say, “I did it,” said Piasta. âThey are really proud of their work.
With the expansion of the venue (Window Community’s in-store studio was only a fraction of the size of the new space), Piasta hopes to offer additional tailoring lessons to the women of the DTES. It also plans to introduce pillows, blankets and possibly clothing into the Carrall Street Canvas Co range.
For Krebs and Piasta, the new flagship ultimately means opportunities to create new jobs. Whether it’s hand-sewing tote bags, labeling clothes, or helping out on the sales floor, the positions offer women a chance to reset their lives. âThey’re doing a complete transformation,â Krebs explains. “There is a couple who have been with us from the very beginning and to watch them achieve their goals – in this case – is really amazing.”
Community Thrift & Vintage’s Unisex Shoppe (41 Cordova Street) and Window Community Art Shop (1 East Hastings Street) are now closed. Going forward, social enterprises will operate collectively at Community Window (11 West Hastings Street).
Community Thrift & Vintage’s Frocke Shoppe at 311 Carrall Street will remain open.
Check out the images below of Community Window’s new flagship and its in-house studio, which opened in mid-February.